Friday, January 27, 2006
Happy 250th, Wolfie!
Tomorrow is my first cello lesson. I’m jazzed.
I was quite taken aback by today’s Fox poll that said 57% of Americans favored attacking Iran to get rid of their nuke capability. It’s as if people think this can be done with a surgical strike that solves the problem and then we can go back to our normal lives. Sort of like Israel’s impressive attack on Iraq’s nuclear program in 1984.
Haven’t we learned that nothing is as simple as it seems? How many people expected the overthrow of Saddamn to be the end of the problem, rather than the beginning? Even after the unexpected appearance of all the underground terrorist cells throughout Iraq. I suspect these small cells are more tribal in scope, each cell made up of extended family members (and in-laws) that are only very loosely aligned with any major group such as Al Queda. Mostly they fall under the wing of some local mullahs, who may sometimes align himself (and his little army) with larger groups like Bani Sadr, etc.
It’s interesting that we’ve not seen much of this on-the-street reality discussed in any detail in the news. Probably a lot has to do with the fact that Americans can’t get comfortable with the concept of these mini tribal/family militias. We can’t understand why a worldly, educated, cultured young father would enlist and apparently gladly die for such a limited idea. Yet, if our country were invaded, wouldn’t a lot of us do the same thing? Don’t our youth enlist in the armed services for much less motive?
OK, so we attack Iran using our bunker busters to root out and destroy much of their nuclear capability. What then? How are we going to deal with the aftermath? Unfortunately, the Bush era’s most negative legacy will be the failure to have seriously planned beyond the overthrow of Saddamn.
We should expect significant chaos on the ground in Iran, chaos with probably most of its neighbors, and chaos possibly with most of the rest of the arab/muslim world; suicide bombers spreading out across the world to retaliate; reprisal attacks on the world’s oil infrastructure including terminals, pipelines and shipping; after-the-fact finger pointing and second guessing by the rest of the second and third world leading to an increasing isolation of this country. How long would we last with oil prices crossing $100 and then $150 and beyond? How long before the world’s economy has ground to a halt due to the disruption of international trade and commodities?
What will China and Russia do? (For that matter, what are China and Russia doing now?) I’m not worried about France and Germany; they’ve proven themselves irrelevant. But Russia is not asleep. Their leaders grew up under the Soviet Union and witnessed its humiliating collapse under their elders in the late 80s, and the resultant gloating and lack of involvement by the west during their struggle to recover economically. They haven’t forgotten.
Russia is playing Iran like a fiddle against the west, just like we used them against the Soviets up until the fall of the Shah in 1979. China and India both have significant interests in the success of an anti-western government in Iran. They rely on Iran’s oil. Russia and China will never allow the UN to do anything about Iran. At most they’ll all play a shell game of obfuscations, delays and deferrals until Iran has completed the development of its own arsenal. Then it will be too late.
Meanwhile I really doubt anyone of us will have the willingness to do anything. The time will never be ripe. It will take too many years to go through all the expected reasonable and “necessary” diplomatic, political and economic measures, including numerous attempts to do all this under the auspices of the UN. Bush will be out of office before these avenues are exhausted. Can you imagine how this is going to play out in the 2008 elections? Can you imagine what the demos are going to be saying? It’s one thing to talk tough while they’re out of power – how ridiculous Howard Dean sounds making forceful statements about Hamas! What path will Al-NY Times, Al-NPR, and Al-CBS take? As it is, I’m curious how they’re going to deal with this issue in the 2006 by-elections.
Aren’t we in a box now? After calling for so many years for free and fair elections in Palestine (and Iraq and the rest of the middle east), now we are faced with a duly elected government made up of terrorists. It’s amusing in a way to see terrorists faced with trying to run a government (imagine, anarchists ruling a country!) Now what do we do? How can we complain about the result of a democratic process that we’ve lobbied for decades to put in place? And yet, we certainly have the right to disagree with an elected government – look at France and Germany, or Venezuela, or even Canada sometimes.
But what to do, when we’d essentially propped up the ex-terrorist Arafat and his gang of thugs for half a decade before Hamas? We’ve spent billions, over and above the all-too-pervasive graft, to help build up a governing infrastructure so that Israel would have someone to turn Gaza over to. It’s obvious we need to withhold any money from Hamas unless they put aside their terrorist tactics and acknowledge the reality of Israel’s right to exist. It would help if the rest of the world also took the same stance, but will they? Considering that this comes on the heels of the loss of Sharon from Israel’s government, it means that all bets are off in that area of the mideast.
These two events, Sharon’s departure and Hamas’ election, will eventually prove to have been a major turning point in that part of the middle east. The risk is that things could turn either way. On the one hand, the relationship between the two sides can slip into chaos, with a tit-for-tat that could escalate into a full-scale invasion and reoccupation of Gaza. Even that won’t stop the intifada and suicide bombings within Israel proper.
On the other hand, it could be viewed as a new beginning; an opportunity to make overtures, bring in new ideas and new faces in order to work toward resolution. The problem is the distrust on both sides – both of their own new leaders as well as the other side - is probably higher now than it has ever been.
It will take careful handholding by some trusted third parties to guide both sides towards the center. Who do they both trust? Nobody. Maybe advocates could be drafted to work with and guide each side separately, at first; advocates who command a general respect in that part of the world – probably not the US, nor Russia/China. Nevertheless, these advocates would have to be genuinely supported by the US and Russia (and whomever else thinks they have to become a sponsor).
As I sit here, I can’t think of anyone who’d fit the bill… Japan? Australia? – probably not anyone who’s been helping with troops in Iraq. What about Iceland? Finland? – probably not anyone who’d been involved in any remote way with the debacle in Europe in WW2. Brazil? New Zealand? Chile?
Bush will have to approach this very carefully. Too bad the demos are going to harp and double-block every move – in order to gain their own short-term political advantage at the cost of a developing any realistic unified policy towards the middle east.
The New Axis of Evil: Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Al Queda
Syria has long controlled Lebanon and they’ve always given safe haven to Hamas, providing funding and training. Since Saddamn’s fall, there has been an unholy alliance between Iran and Syria (which is interesting because Iran is Shiite while Syria is Sunni.) I’ve always believed that Iran has been backing Al Queda – in fact, I’ve long suspected that although Usama has stationed his henchmen in Pakistan, he himself has been laying low on the Iranian side of Afghanistan’s border - with the full knowledge and backing of the Iranian government.
Now, we face a new alliance in the Middle East, with a four-part agenda:
1. Destroy Israel;
2. Take over Iraq;
3. Overthrow Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States - replacing them with fundamentalist mullahs;
4. Attack US interests throughout the world by pinching off the flow of oil and sending terrorists against us at every opportunity.
It will be an interesting year.